My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I can't claim any profundity of insight into Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke. As I read it, the novel is a multifaceted portrait of the degree to which individuals require religious certitude in order to wage war, and the chronicling of how violence and compassion slowly disabuse some individuals of that certitude -- of, indeed, just about any certitude at all.
Johnson's book is deeply humane, in other words -- recommendation enough to take and read. But in my particular case I fell head-over-heels in love with the work as I read some 15 or so pages aloud, to my family, on summer vacation, while one of my kids sketched portraits of me into her notebook.
At my stage in life any author who takes more than 350 pages to make their point is tempting immediate rejection. But by the end of Tree of Smoke I found myself possessed by that increasingly rare frame of longing, wishing the experience hadn't ended so abruptly -- at 600-plus pages.
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